Recording Studio: Berimbau


Recording Studio: Berimbau

The berimbau is a single-string percussion instrument, a musical bow, from Brazil. It is a common site in the average recording studio in Brazil. The Berimbau originally came from Africa and when it was brought to Brazil it was integrated into the martial art of Capoeira. It can also be found in the average recording studio in Brazil. The berimbau which is called the “Soul of the Capoeira” leads the capoeiristas movement. The faster the berimbau is playing the faster the capoeirista moves in the game. The instrument is known for being the subject matter of a popular song by Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The instrument is also a part of Candomblé-de-caboclo tradition.
The berimbau’s origins have not been fully researched, though it is most likely an adaptation of African gourde musical bows, as no Indigenous Brazilian or European people use musical bows. It has come a long way from Africa into the Recording Studio.

Recording Studio: Berimbau African Origins

There is little doubt that the berimbau is African in origin. There are several similar instruments found all across africa as well as parts of India. Despite this the berimbau as it exists in Brazil is believed to be African in origin because:

  • In the recorded history of Brazil, it has only been associated with Afro-brazilian culture.
  • Almost identical instruments have been found in other countries with significant number African slaves and preserved African culture such as Guam and Cuba. It is also worth noting that in these countries the berimbau exists independent of capoeira.
  • Identical instruments can be found all across Africa even in places untouched by the Portuguese colonialists.
  • There is no evidence of an instrument similar to the berimbau among Brazilian natives or the Portuguese.

In Angola the berimbau is called hungu or m’bolumbumba. It is an instrument used a lot by nomads and can be seen as far south as Swaziland and all the way to the east coast of Africa to Madagascar and the island of Reunion. It is also found in the recording studio. This is interesting because based on 19th century paintings of capoeira, some historians believe the berimbau was incorporated with capoeira by lone singers playing the instrument. In some case a roda was formed around the lone singers by practitioners of capoeira or the reverse was the case when a berimbau player stumbled upon a roda. The lone African singer would sing songs of love, slavery and of Africa. He or she would sing songs about society, religion, and what was going on at the time. People would gather round and begin to respond to the words in the form of a chorus. “E vai você, e via você”, and the people responded “Dona Maria, como vai você?”

recording studio berimbau